March 7, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: '300: Rise of an Empire' celebrates excessive, pointless violence

Sullivan Stapleton plays legendary warrior Themistokles of Athens in '300: Rise of an Empire.' (Legendary Pictures)

“300: Rise of an Empire” is a bloodbath and not much else.

Heads are bisected and decapitated. Swords and spears plunge through bodies, setting off slow-motion gushes of deep red, time and time and time again. Ships collide, hundreds of bodies sink to the bottom of the sea.

You’ve heard the expression “Heads will roll.” In this movie heads roll all over the place.

Why exactly they’re rolling is never quite clear. Most likely to make audience members glad their own heads are intact. Beyond that, it’s hard to find a point to “Rise.” It’s pretty much blood for blood’s sake.

“Rise” is, of course, a sequel to the hugely successful “300”; and it, too, is filled with rippling muscles, brave-if-misguided warrior-speak and massive battle scenes. But while “300” had at least a modicum of political intrigue, this film is just full-on mayhem.

Part of it actually takes place at the same time as “300.” A massive Persian army under the command of the self-anointed man-god Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) is attacking Greece at two points. At one, the 300 brave-if-not-particularly-bright Spartans make a stand and are wiped out. End of that movie.

At the other point, the fleet of Athens, led by the legendary Themistokles (Sullivan Stapleton), sails against the much bigger fleet of the Persians, which is led by the thoroughly evil and smoking hot Artemisia (Eva Green).

For a while, Themistokles and the Athenians hold their own, leading to a meeting between the Athenian leader and Artemisia, which devolves into a ludicrous sex scene. But then it’s back to battle, where it soon becomes clear enough the Athenians are plain outnumbered no matter how hard they fight.

So Themistokles puts out a call to all the other cities of Greece, including his traditional enemies the Spartans, to join in the battle.

The result? Blood, blood, blood and more blood. Director Noam Murro likes nothing better than a slow-mo impaling that near-freezes for a second, then speeds back up to normal just in time to slow down again as a sword crosses through someone’s neck, spraying the screen. Then more, more, more.

If there’s such a thing as torture porn — and there is — this is either blood porn or battle porn or violence porn, absolutely some kind of porn, overwhelming and numbing and certainly mindless. If the excuse is war is hell or life is brutal, well, wallowing in such excess is every bit as hellish and brutish.

“Rise” makes “300” look comparatively subtle, and that was likely its intent. The reasoning behind that intent is what’s worrisome. Must we feed the beast such entrails?

'300: Rise of an Empire'


Rated R for strong, sustained sequences of stylized bloody violence throughout, a sex scene, nudity and some language

Running time: 102 minutes